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Statement by the President of the Committee for Economic Development

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Wednesday 24 April 2019

This update statement comes at a time of continuing uncertainty - primarily over Brexit.

It is testament to the work of the States that in this time of uncertainty Guernsey is able to provide stability, and it is this stability that will serve our community and our economy well.

Around nine months ago, this Assembly formally and decisively supported the economic development strategy the Committee for Economic Development put forward.

The Assembly subsequently supported the liberalisation of the aviation market that we proposed, and it supported the air and sea links policy and investment objectives that we put forward in December.

This clarity has enabled us to give a clear message to business - that we have a plan, and that it is based on providing confidence and opportunity.

We have set out a vision of a liberalised, outward-looking, forward-looking economy, one that meets international standards, and that values proportionate regulation to protect consumers, investors and businesses alike.

At this States meeting the States has an opportunity to send a clear signal to business that it is willing to invest further in our economy, in relation to the airport runway.

By rejecting the Policy & Resources Committee's position, and exploring in detail the pros and cons of an extension to the airport runway, we will be saying we are willing to consider greater investment in our economic future.

Transport connectivity remains one of the Committee's critical priorities.

The unsatisfactory outcome of the PSO process for the Guernsey-Alderney route means that we have more work to do to persuade the market that there is an opportunity for them. But we are confident that a simpler specification for the PSO will attract credible industry players.

The Committee and its officers have held meetings with States and non-States parties in order to revive and revise the PSO process. I hope to soon be in a position to provide further clarity on the next steps to members of the Assembly.

Sir, business wants government to create the conditions for growth and to work in partnership with business to create opportunities and remove barriers.

In relation to the finance sector, the engine of our economy, good work is being done by industry, Guernsey Finance, the GFSC and government - in partnership - to develop our offer, in order to maintain and grow the sector.

One example of this approach is the development of a green finance offer. A Guernsey Green Finance industry body was established in late 2018.

Subsequently, Guernsey has become a member of the International Network of Financial Centres for Sustainability (the FC4S Network); and government and industry are continuing to work together to develop an impact fund.

These are positive developments which will help us recast our finance sector offer in a competitive global market.

In the economic development strategy, we prioritised digital connectivity, and accelerating next generation digital infrastructure in Guernsey.

The Committee published the Future of Telecoms strategy paper in July 2018. This set out the case for the roll out of next generation telecoms infrastructure to secure the island's digital connectivity into the future. It includes policy for the implementation of 5G, fibre to business and minimum residential broadband speeds.

Following consultation with on-island telecommunications providers and the regulator, the Committee will be submitting a Policy Letter to the States for debate in September.

This will seek States approval for implementation of next generation telecommunications infrastructure, including proposals for the licensing of a 5G network on the island.

Creating an environment that supports start up and scale up businesses is one of the critical components of the economic development strategy - supporting the growth of our own businesses and attracting new businesses here.

For that reason the proposed economic development aspects of the Future Digital Services programme are exciting. Subject to the States' agreement at the June States meeting, we will be able to work with Agilisys on a programme that includes:

The work on digital skills will support the Skills Action Plan. This was published in late 2018 by Skills Guernsey, led jointly by the Committee with the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture.

The plan was developed through extensive engagement with industry and is informed by the findings of research into current skills gaps.

The plan sets out the practical steps to be taken by government, in partnership with the local community and industry. It seeks to develop lifelong learning, digital skills, entrepreneurship, and employability skills. It will support the Guernsey Apprenticeship, the identification and development of future apprenticeships, and work based learning opportunities.

Sir, as well as focusing on skills for business, the Committee has set out its objective to support the effective operation of the local economy through making it easier to do business.

This includes an initiative to identify and remove red tape, and to reduce the cost of doing business in Guernsey.

A Working Party was formed at the end of last year. It is made up of representatives from both the Committee for Economic Development and the business community.

The group had its first meeting late last year, and it agreed to focus its work on three areas:

  1. Evaluating how easy it is to do business in Guernsey compared to other countries. This is being done by using a widely recognised benchmarking approach: the World Bank's Doing Business index;
  2. Understanding if local businesses have any immediate and specific concerns which the States should seek to address, through feedback from various business groups; and
  3. Assessing how other places have been successful in removing barriers to doing business.

This Working Party is due to report its initial findings back in the next month. The Committee will then determine what it can do in order to help to address any issues that have come up through this process.

Sir, the Committee is also working in collaboration with industry representatives to develop an action plan for Guernsey's tourism and hospitality sector. Industry has made it clear that it wants actions and not another strategy, and for that reason the Committee will publish its action plan in Q2 of this year.

This action plan will be distilled from the 10-year tourism strategy that was agreed in 2015 with the Chamber of Commerce, and will also include development of new opportunities such as edu-tourism, medical tourism and working with Alderney and Sark.

The Committee acknowledges that there is much to do in an increasingly competitive market, but our starting point is not a bad one. After over 20 years of steady decline, staying visitor numbers have stabilised and grown modestly from 2015 to 2018, since the current strategy was published and put in place.

The PWC report on our tourism industry showed that there is significant scope for improvement in our product, and that will be the focus of our action plan.

There is much we can do to help improve performance, of course, right across the Committee's promotional agencies, and we have commissioned an internal review to identify opportunities for cooperation between them.

The future partnership with Agilisys will also be factored into a fundamental review of the 2020 budgets.

Sir, the Committee continues to look at ways of diversifying the economy, including the development of plans for an international university presence in Guernsey.

The cross-Committee working party has identified partners interested in establishing an International University presence, who will be attending a workshop in Guernsey in May. This will refine the partnership model, and the curriculum of the proposed university.

It is likely that the University proposal will focus on a cellular model, which would result in Guernsey partnering with multiple universities, from a wide spread of geographies, all simultaneously offering some form of physical study presence in Guernsey and utilising the same campus.

At present, we think the curriculum will focus on digital skills, sustainable development and the arts, but the details will be developed over the coming months.

The Working Party will produce a feasibility study for the project, which will cover the financial and organisational options, and the direct and indirect benefits of an international university presence in Guernsey.

If the feasibility study suggests that the proposal is sound, this will lead to a States Report in Q4 of this year.

Sir, the Committee is also actively driving the Seafront Enhancement Area Steering Group, which will shortly produce a high-level Seafront Enhancement Area Plan. This will set out which specific developments should come forward as part of the SEA programme.

Alongside the production of this plan, there is a statutory requirement for the development of a Local Planning Brief, which will involve the need to undertake environmental impact assessments into the identified developments.

Both the high-level plan and the Local Planning Brief will be presented to the States Assembly in the form of a policy letter, the approval of which will signify the movement into the delivery phase of the SEA programme.

The SEA steering group has set a target for presenting this to the States before May 2020 and will work closely with the Development & Planning Authority, which is the body responsible for producing the Local Planning Brief and taking it through the planning inquiry process.

In the meantime, work continues to bring forward the enhancements of a number of sites along the east coast.

Following an extremely successful public engagement process which saw over 350 positive suggestions for change being submitted, the States has sought expressions of interest on these sites that can be delivered ahead of the production of a Local Planning Brief.

The steering group has shortlisted the bids down from 35 submissions to 11 across the six sites, and it is envisaged that work will commence to deliver one or more of these sites by Q3 2019.

There are of course many other work streams in the Economic Development Strategy, but time precludes me from going into more detail on those areas now.

Members may ask questions on any part of our mandate, and I will do my best to answer them.

 

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